Archive for Monday, May 21, 2007

Rains damaging wildlife refuges

May 21, 2007


— The two premier wetlands in Kansas are too wet.

Recent heavy rains have inundated Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms, closing many roads and likely causing erosion damage to dikes and water control structures.

Dave Hilley, manager at Quivira, said the problems started with the May 4 storms that produced the deadly Greensburg tornado and widespread torrential rains.

Rattlesnake Creek, Quivira's main water source, begins near Greensburg and drains miles of prairie before reaching the refuge.

"We also had so much water coming down other creeks or just draining out of surrounding grasslands," Hilley said. "Some localized areas have gotten 5-inch rains."

It's not much better at Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend.

Karl Grover, Cheyenne Bottoms manager, said pools that ideally hold about 15 inches of water have held more than 50 inches.

"About everything's underwater, but I'm sure there's going to be a lot of dike erosion," Grover said. "Right now the biggest concern is where we have water backed up on private land. There's not a lot we can do."

Most of Quivira's roads are closed, as are some public roads near the refuge. And the headquarters road is the only safe access to Cheyenne Bottoms, Grover said.

Heavy inflow can easily erode sandy soil from the edges of Quivira's 107 water control structures.

The flooding also affects ground-nesting birds, such as wild turkeys, Canada geese and killdeer. Many are in the midst of laying eggs and incubation and may have lost their nests.

Unfortunately, another type of wildlife also loves the extra water. Mosquitoes are likely to be a problem at the reservoirs for months.


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